Director Q&A - The Shape of Things

April 24, 2003 Neil LaBute

More than 120 independent filmmakers packed the DGA atrium in late April for the annual DGA Independent Directors Committee (IDC) reception for non-member directors. The gathering included a screening of IDC member Neil LaBute's new film, The Shape of Things, followed by a Q&A moderated by Michael Apted. Featured speakers included members Charles Burnett, Duane Clark, Bobby Roth, Stephen Gyllenhaal, Leon Ichaso, and George Hickenlooper.

LaBute's The Shape of Things is a cinematic rendering of the director's acclaimed theatre piece. "I didn't want to go through a charade of making this feel more like a movie by adding scenes with lots of extras or shots of Paul Rudd walking across campus," LaBute told Apted. "I didn't want to buffalo the audience into thinking they were seeing something other than four people, 10 scenes, something that is very theatrical."

Apted noted "a malevolence" that pervaded The Shape of Things, much like all of LaBute's stories. "You push the envelope and offend people," Apted said. "Do you care, ultimately, what people say about your work?"

"A single critic can make or break a show in theatre," LaBute replied. "And that's a hard thing to swallow. But what's written or said about my work has never affected what I do. It's not like I'm suddenly going to make something nicer because that's what people may want me to do."

When Apted opened the discussion to the audience, LaBute's fierce independence, so much in tune with the tenor of the IDC's aims, provoked praise from the audience.

"I have no particular interest in making people better through my work," LaBute said. "The real task is to raise questions. Not necessarily to provoke or confront, but to raise questions I've asked myself. I don't care about the audience, in that sense. I care about the characters and seeing them through to the end."

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